Tasman Rugby Union competition’s manager Steve Mitchell demonstrates how hard the ground is at Jubilee Park as a result of the region’s drought. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Grounds closed for start of rugby season

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With the region’s sports grounds resembling an African savannah, codes have had to get creative with the winter season fast approaching.

Stage 3 water restrictions has meant little or no irrigation to fields leaving several of them rock hard and posing a risk to player safety.

Jubilee Park, Tahuna Playing Fields, Greenmeadows, Brightwater Domain and Endeavour Parks will all be out of action for at least the first three rounds of the Tasman Trophy affecting Waimea Old Boys, Wanderers, Marist and Stoke.

Games will be spread around Neale Park, Sports Park in Motueka and Riwaka Sportsground in Nelson and Lansdowne, Awatere and Renwick parks in Marlborough.

Tasman Rugby Union competition manager Steve Mitchell says despite the drought, the rugby season will commence as scheduled.

“It’s certainly the worst I’ve seen in 30 years, but we have adjusted the draw to play games at those fields available.”

With New Zealand Rugby and the Mitre 10 Cup dictating the season window, Tasman Rugby Union had little choice but to forge ahead with the scheduled start date of March 16.

“The big clubs are all affected, everyone is aware of it and understands the situation.”

Steve says they must be prepared to be flexible about who plays who and where and is confident the fields that have been made available won’t pose a risk to players.

“Safety is a concern, but we have addressed that to the best of our ability.”

The union has faced similar issues as recently as last year when Trafalgar Park was made unavailable due to the All Blacks test.

“We are a proactive organisation that works with stakeholders to find solutions.”

Nelson City Council councillor Tim Skinner says football should be unaffected with a scheduled April 1 season kick-off.

“The grass recovery may take a while, so with rugby are planning to start earlier than previous years, we are relying on rain.”

He says he will be liaising with a number of clubs in the coming weeks.

Nelson City Council acting group manager for community services Rosie Bartlett says council is doing the best it can to manage and maintain playing surfaces under current conditions.

“We will be meeting with both rugby and football codes to discuss the current situation and options for the season ahead.”